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Writing in snow with the word cold

Tim Challies recently ran a piece on the best theological blogs out there by doctrinally conservative women and I excitedly absorbed in anticipation of discovering new voices to enrich my reading and thinking. Some appeared in the list like favorite old friends, others challenged my snark tendencies. There were a few new ones I’ve since started reading. You know me: I’m reserving judgment until I’ve had a good 3 or 4 months with these ladies and their writing. 

But what caught my attention — and that of three other blogging ladies — the most was the comment Challies offered at the end:

Let me close with an observation. I was struck, as I went through all the blogs I follow, how many have gone cold. It may be that there has always been this much attrition in the blogosphere, or it may be that blogging is in decline, having given way to other forms of social media. It is hard to know. But I found a lot of blogs—former favorites—that had not been updated in months. Many of them ended with notes from the author saying that she would return at an undefined point in the future. I wonder how many will.

That hit a nerve with me because I have labored with the sadness of hosting a blog gone cold. The other ladies who were struck by that paragraph sent their thoughts to Tim who graciously gave them space to expand and articulate more I am so glad that he did and that they did. They perfectly express the life of a theological blogger of the female persuasion and if I might add a thought of my own to theirs:

Life can be mentally exhausting — for everyone, men and women alike. I am not able to keep the synapses firing as before without experiencing a sort of a brain crash. Only mental rest revives it — sometimes several weeks of mental rest.

Other than emails, I have not written since June 19. I am not sure if I’m ready to start again, but it was my desire to share the thoughts of Hannah Anderson, Courtney Reissig and Megan Hill, so I considered that running their posts here would be a great way to raise a Huzzah! to them and also check the pulse of Who Me?.

Here are the responses Challies got to his Blogs Gone Cold observation:

TRUE SUCCESS (HANNAH ANDERSON)

Back in August, Tim Challies posted a helpful list of theological blogs by and for women. At the end, he noted that several blogs had “gone cold,” questioning when and whether the writers would return. As a female theological blogger myself, I smiled and thought, “Of course, they have.”

There are many reasons that blogs go cold—neglect, attrition, or simply a lack of focus—but  one reason that conservative female bloggers struggle to publish consistently is because we tend to blog outside organized ministry while our male counterparts write from within it. Certainly, not every male theological blogger is employed in ministry, but many do serve as full-time pastors, directors of para-church organizations, seminary professors, and students preparing for a theological career. You don’t find many male engineers, doctors, mathematicians, or police officers blogging in this same niche.

On the other hand, the majority of conservative female bloggers do not blog from a ministry context. Rarely are they employed by a church; they are not even pursuing a “career” in this field. By and large, they are lay women—homemakers, teachers, graphic designers, and writers who simply have an aptitude and interest in theology.

I do not mean to suggest that male bloggers in ministry are blogging “on the clock” but simply that their day job and their blogging flow together naturally. The opposite is true for their female peers. Conservative female bloggers must actually devote more time to covering the same topics because they do not naturally arise from their work week. For example, my day job is as a wife and mother; if I decide to respond to the latest theological snafu, it’s not because I need to understand the nature of sanctification in order to get the laundry done. But if I were a pastor, I would need to understand it and could justify the time to study it out.

The tension between our “day jobs” and blogging is not a problem so long as we don’t evaluate a blogger’s worth based on productivity alone. In my own life, I’ve had to accept that God has called me to be both a stay-at-home mom and a writer. I must believe that His providence is wise enough to have placed me at this nexus for a reason—perhaps to show that theology is for all of life, for both men and women.

But accepting this tension also means accepting the fact that I will be less “productive” than my male counterparts. It means learning to multi-task and not being surprised when I find myself listening to “The Future of Protestantism”while decorating an Angry Bird birthday cake for my 5-year-old son. (True story.)

Thankfully, in God’s kingdom, productivity is not everything. My success as a blogger is not found in my stats, my regularity, or how many posts go viral. My success is found in being faithful to His call and believing that He uses the weak—even irregular—things of the world to accomplish His eternal purposes.

A TIME FOR EVERYTHING (COURNEY REISSIG)

For me, there is no other place where I feel the limitations of my varying seasons like writing. While both genders are constrained by their seasons, women are confronted with it more acutely. So much of our writing in the blogosphere is born out of our life experiences, and though helpful, there are some life experiences that do not afford the time needed to write about them (i.e. small children, pregnancy, caring for aging parents, etc.).

I tend to view my writing life as cyclical. It ebbs and flows with the reality of my daily life. I think many young moms feel the same way. But it isn’t just limited to young moms. As a new wife working a full-time job, I actually found less time to write than I currently do as a stay-at-home mom. I have heard of women serving in ministry full-time who also have to work side jobs to pay the bills. These situations also do not lend themselves to writing opportunities.

When we consider why women are not always at the forefront in the blogosphere, it is helpful to note that while many women feel gifted and called to write, there are a myriad of other daily responsibilities that also require their full attention. Even if they are compelled to write out of their experience, those very experiences keep them from putting the proverbial pen to paper.

The nature of our current internet culture doesn’t lend itself to the woman who writes less frequently than the average Joe. We live in an age of immediacy, where page views are everything, and site hits make the bank. If you can’t keep up with the latest controversy, current event, or even your own daily musings, it is hard to be front and center as a reputable blogger and writer. But in the Christian subculture, there is (thankfully) grace for that. Many women writers still find a voice even if they can’t post as frequently as the next person, primarily because the very women who can’t find time to write themselves are desperate to know they aren’t alone in their quest to find time to even do the most simple tasks.

Our seasons come and go. In our moments of discouragement over our inability to feed content to our blog, we would be helped to remember that there is a time for everything. What was once cold, may one day be white hot with content. We must only be faithful with what we are given today.

WARM, NOT COLD (MEGAN HILL)

I received a new book in the mail.  I read it.  I thought about it. I wrote a post on my blog.

It took me a year.

Why do women’s blogs go cold? I suspect that sometimes they don’t go cold so much as they go warm—their burners turned down to low, slow-cooker-style, while a thought or an experience bastes in the juices, to emerge tender and flavorful after a time.

But the blogosphere is better suited to value-meal burgers than twelve-hour pot roasts.  Leslie Leyland Fields describes the frenzy familiar to every writer in the digital age:  “So here we all are hunched over in emergency mode every day, madly chopping and grinding, tossing posts and articles and reviews out into the void. We’re generating twice as much content as we used to, in half the time.”

This pace, daunting for the most unencumbered single man, is killing for multi-tasking women trying to balance it all. As Charity Singleton Craig, co-author of the forthcoming On Being a Writer observed, “I need… allowances in my writing life to make room for the fluctuations stress brings and to keep myself from cracking.”

Some of us may be particularly gifted (or have mastered the art of espresso and late nights,) but for the rest of us, writing selectively and unhurriedly—what Fields calls “slow writing”—may not be merely advisable but necessary. And I think that’s good for everyone.

Motherhood, for one thing, makes women write slowly. About poet and mother Rachel Zucker, The New Yorker observed: “writing and attending to children are contesting emergencies, each an existential threat to the other.” Yes.

Most of the time, I write standing up at the kitchen counter, scribbling furiously on a scrap of paper, holding up one finger to a child demanding something: a drink, a snack, the separation of two stubborn Lego bricks.  Usually, the child wins, and the words come slow.

Then, too, especially for theological conservatives and complementarians, we write as women under authority. What I write, I write after long discussions with my husband. Two are slower than one.

Beyond that, I write in submission to the authority of the Bible. As Aimee Byrdexplains, “with all the influence that women do have in the church, the home, and the world, we should want them to be very good theologians.” I weigh my words against God’s—each syllable analyzed for truth and profitability. Nothing fast there.

And I write with an awareness of community—unwilling to give my readers any offense but Christ, and not wanting my children to hate me when they read comments about themselves fifteen years later.  Slow. Slower. Slowest.

Women may not all publish consistently, but I hope our deliberating and meditating—blogs gone warm—actually result in better words. Speed and regularity are not the only virtues, and if some women bloggers substitute thoughtfulness and depth, I think the blogosphere is getting a pretty good bargain.


Hannah R. Anderson lives in Roanoke, Virginia, with her husband and three young children. In the in-between moments, she is a freelance writer and blogs at www.sometimesalight.com. She is the author of Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image (Moody, 2014). You can follow her on Twitter.

Megan Hill lives in Mississippi with her husband and three children. She is a regular contributor to Her.meneutics and The Gospel Coalition and writes a blog about ministry life at SundayWomen.com.

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Written by mrsdkmiller

September 24, 2014 at 10:59 am

Posted in Abiding, Life upside down, Writing

Tagged with ,

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